Time to get this thing rolling. After last night's contest, it looks like the Irish will be relying on an even shorter bench than in year's past with Jonathan Peoples having the inside track at the final starting position. With one exhibition game left, some things are still subject to change before the official start of the year, but I will work with what we know right now.
Predicted Wins in Bold
N14 North Florida 7pm
N16 St. Francis(PA) 7:30pm
N19 Long Beach State 7:30pm
Three cupcakes to start the year. North Florida and St. Francis both finished last season ranked over 300 by Ken Pomeroy. Long Beach State should provide a slightly more strenuous challenge, but should also be a comfortable double-digit win. If the Irish struggle against any of these opponents, it could be a long season.
N22 Liberty (CIT) 7pm
N24 Kennesaw State (CIT) 7:30pm
N27 vs. Northwestern (CIT) 8:30pm
N28 vs. STL/IA State (CIT) TBA
The Chicago Invitational Challenge comprises four rounds, two of which will be held at the Joyce Center followed by Thanksgiving weekend matchups at the Sears Centre in Chicago. The first matchup with Liberty would have been much more interesting last season, but Seth Curry has since transferred to Duke, leaving the Flames with a little less firepower and a lot less name recognition. Kennesaw State can make a strong case for being the worst team we play all year.
In Chicago, Northwestern will pose the first real test for the Irish. The Wildcats are gunning for an NCAA tournament bid this time around and proved to be a pretty solid team last season with wins over Michigan State and Purude. Even though most of those players return, I expect the Irish to get in a tough semi-road win and handle either Rick Majerus' Saint Louis squad or Iowa State and remain unbeaten.
D01 Idaho State 7:30pm
D06 Central Florida Noon
D09 IUPUI 7:30pm
D12 Loyola Marymount 7pm
When you schedule a bunch of cupcakes, you better take care of business. This stretch of opponents is the most difficult so far, but every one of these games should be won if Notre Dame seriously considers itself an NCAA Tournament team.
D19 UCLA 2pm CBS
More than one nonconference loss against this easy schedule will be unacceptable. Unfortunately for the Irish, that loss will come at the hands of a Bruin team that pasted them on the road a year ago, 89-63. While UCLA is much younger and ND will get a boost from playing at home, that will only serve to make the margin a little closer.
D22 Bucknell 7pm
The Bison have made a name for themselves the last several years by upsetting high-major programs in March. In 2006, they defeated 8 seed Arkansas. A year before, it was 3 seed Kansas. More recently, it has been a struggle to make the Tournament. Irish win.
D30 Providence 9pm BE
Keno Davis coached a veteran Friar team to a solid season a year ago. Season two will be more difficult with just one starter returning.
J02 @ Connecticut (Hartford) Noon ESPNU
No Thabeet this year for UCONN, but the Irish won't have enough to overcome a Husky team on the road that is just a year removed from the Final Four.
J05 @ South Florida 7pm ESPNU
J09 West Virginia 8pm ESPNU
Pretty basic split here. The Bulls are very bad, the Mountaineers very good. Homecourt will not have too much of an effect on who prevails.
J16 @ Cincinnati 4pm ESPNU
J18 Syracuse 7pm ESPN
Finally the Irish face two opponents of pretty similar ability. Both will compete for those final NCAA Tournament at-large bids. I'll pick a loss to Deonta Vaughn and the Bearcats on the road, but predict we get them on the second time around. As for the Orange, it will be nice to not have to watch Eric Devendorf and Johnny Flynn on the opposing bench.
J23 DePaul 2pm BE
J27 @ Villanova 7pm ESPN
Much like the South Florida/West Virginia pairing, we play the worst team in the league and the best team back to back.
J30 @ Rutgers 6pm ESPN2
F04 Cincinnati 9pm ESPN/2
F07 South Florida Noon BE
A trip to the RAC starts off a nice three-game winning streak. Both Rutgers and South Florida are perennial celar dwellars and should be solid wins. I'd take a season split against Mick Cronin's squad as well.
F11 @ Seton Hall 7pm ESPNU
F14 St. John's 7:30pm BE
A year ago, Jeremy Hazell only managed 12 points as the Pirates fell to Notre Dame on the road. This season, we won't get so lucky. We should have enough to get by St. John's the following Sunday, however.
F17 @ Louisville 7pm ESPN2
F24 Pittsburgh 7pm ESPN2
F27 @ Georgetown Noon CBS
M03 Connecticut 7pm ESPN
M06 @ Marquette 2pm BE
Five games against big-name programs finish out the year. We will be lucky to get two of these, which will lead to an uncomfortable feeling on Selection Sunday. Louisville should reload enough to handle us at home and Georgetown will be much improved this season. Pitt has always proven to be a difficult opponent but the loss of three stars will really put Jamie Dixon's coaching skill to the test. Marquette, the closest thing we have to a true basketball rival, is also low on experience but could have improved enough by the end of the year to pick up a home win. 2-3 to end the season will be a blessing.
Predicted Record- 22-9 (10-8)
The Irish will benefit from a very weak nonconference schedule, but reality will set in once Big East play starts. If things go according to plan, the Irish will finish in the top eight and lock up an at-large bid with a win or two in the Big East Tournament. However, loads of questions remain about how this team will fare. With three new starters added to a squad that failed to make the Big Dance last year, even this prediction could be a bit optimistic.